Threat of bomber attacks was used to control German masses

By Andrea Lynn

It was technology - bombers, to be precise - that cleared the way for 
Hitler, says a historian of Nazi Germany. Peter Fritzsche believes that 
Nazi Germany used the threat of foreign bomber attacks to mobilize and 
control its own people, and that mobilization and control led to civilian
acceptance of the authoritarian state.

In his article in The American Historical Review, Fritzsche argues that 
Nazi Germany, unlike England and France, "made chaos the governing 
principle of national politics: After 1933, the idea of jeopardy served to
justify the construction of a new political order that was pitiless but 
itself merely provisional, a precondition for further mobilizations and 
further occupations."

Just a few months after Hitler was appointed chancellor in January 1933, 
air defense officials decided that Germany couldn't afford the "political
conflicts and social divisions" that had prevailed during the Weimar 
period (1919-1933). They also recognized that the coming air war required
a communal response. Therefore, the thinking went, every man, woman and 
child should become responsible for the "entire body of the nation." 
Toward that end, Germany waged an all-out "airmindedness" campaign.

The campaign amounted to full mobilization of the people along 
authoritarian political principles launched on the pretext of being 
"necessary for national survival in the age of total war," writes 
Fritzsche, a UI history professor, in the June issue of AHR. To the Nazis,
civilian defense meant mobilizing into a "national army of utmost 
vigilance and true belief."

"That the Nazis in fact decreased expenditures on air defense in favor of
an offensive air capacity after 1936 not only points to the primacy of 
political over technical aspects of civil defense but also indicates that
civil defense always served primarily domestic rather than military 
In the article, "Machine Dreams: Airmindedness and the Reinvention of 
Germany," Fritzsche describes Nazi efforts to "air condition" Germans, 
including the youngest of citizens. Among other things, children went on 
field trips to flying rallies, airports and airplane factories. 
Schoolchildren so impeded production that plant visits were suspended in 

A 1939 census evaluated every citizen's air-defense skills in gliding, 
flying and motoring, and first-aid and air-defense training. While the 
results of the census are not known, Fritzsche said there is little doubt
that "compared with their counterparts in England - who established public
air-defense precautions late in the 1930s and only then in response to the
Third Reich's warmongering - German civilians were better prepared for war
and more resigned to its inevitability."

"War fatalism was the valuable dividend of the campaign to make Germany 
airminded, which acknowledged the terror but emphasized the nation's 
ability to survive the modern air war. This fatalism facilitated 
acceptance of the authoritarian state." 

UIUC -- Inside Illinois -- 1993/09-16-93